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June 14, 2007

State Fire Marshal’s Office hosts symposium in Springfield on childhood injury prevention program
Risk Watch program brings community public safety and education officials together to teach children how to prevent injuries

Springfield – Nearly 40 participants from 12 communities will be in Springfield Thursday and Friday to learn more about how they can help prevent unintentional childhood injuries that are the number-one health risk for children ages 14 and under.  The participants are part of the Illinois Risk Watch program and will be attending the two-day symposium hosted by the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM). 

“The biggest safety risks to children are actually very preventable if we get safety messages to children when they’re young,” said Nereida Avendano, public education manager for OSFM.  “Through the Risk Watch program, we’re working with local public safety and education officials to help children learn how to stay safe at home, at school or in the community.  This symposium provides the opportunity for our newer Risk Watch communities to learn from experienced Risk Watch communities, and hopefully everyone will take home fresh ideas about how to implement the program in their areas.” 

Risk Watch was developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) as the first comprehensive injury prevention program available for use in schools.  Risk Watch gives children and their families the skills and knowledge they need to create safer homes and communities.

The Risk Watch program is a school-based curriculum that links teachers with community safety experts and parents.  The curriculum is divided into five age-appropriate teaching modules: pre-kindergarten, grades 1-2, grades 3-4, grades 5-6 and grades 7-8.  Each module addresses: motor vehicle safety; fire and burn prevention; choking, suffocation and strangulation prevention; poisoning prevention; fall prevention; firearms injury prevention; and bike and pedestrian safety. For children ages 14 and under, these areas represent the greatest risk of unintentional injury.  According to the NFPA, unintentional injuries kill more than 7,000 children and permanently disable more than 50,000 each year in the United States. 

Champaign was the first Illinois community to join the Risk Watch program in 1997, and today there are 28 Risk Watch communities throughout Illinois.  Avendano said the fire marshal’s office encourages other communities to join in the effort to prevent injuries to children.

The Illinois Risk Watch Champion Management Team is coordinated by OSFM in cooperation with the Health Alliance Medical Plans, the Illinois Department of Public Health/Illinois Safe Kids Coalition, Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois State Board of Education, Carle Emergency Services and the Champaign Fire Department.

Communities with Risk Watch representatives attending the workshop in Springfield Thursday and Friday include:

• Champaign
• Chicago Ridge
• Downers Grove
• Galesburg
• Libertyville
• Mattoon
• Mt. Vernon
• Paris
• Posen
• Quincy
• Springfield
• Urbana

For more information about the Illinois Risk Watch program, visit the OSFM website at www.state.il.us/osfm, call Jessica Blackford at 217-558-0324 or email her at Jessica.Blackford@illinois.gov



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